IS WEAVER RIGHT FOR TOON?
By Phill Othen
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Newcastle United are allegedly preparing to break the record transfer fee for a keeper with a five million pound bid for the youngster over the summer. Although Magpies` boss Bobby Robson has disclosed that he is happy with the current pairing of Shay Given and Steve Harper, the temptation to own such a talent may prove too much of a carrot to resist.
Royle has already stated that Weaver will stay at City if they gain promotion and considers the 21 year-old gifted enough to hold the England number one jersey in years to come. Opta investigate whether Weaver is worth the lolly, or if Newcastle should stick with what they`ve got.
The Manchester City keeper shot to fame by saving two penalties in last season`s second division play-off final to break Gillingham`s hearts, and has been an instrumental figure this campaign, helping the Blues hold the best defensive record in the league bar frugal Fulham and leaders Charlton.
City have conceded just 36 goals in 38 games while Weaver has only missed one game all season. The young shot-stopper has kept 11 clean sheets - although surprisingly four keepers have collected more - and has pulled off well in excess of 100 saves.
The parsimony of the City defensive line has resulted in Weaver having to face substantially less crosses than his divisional equivalents. It still remains impressive, however, that the youngster has dropped just one centre all season.
If the Citizens` keeper is to leave Maine Road in the summer, then the ambitious Weaver would hope for a regular first team place. This appears unlikely; he would be up against stiff opposition in Steve Harper and Shay Given, who have shared goal duties to good effect.
Although Harper has doubled Given`s appearance time, it is the young Irishman who is more likely to challenge Weaver`s place in the team. The former Sunderland keeper enjoys a reputation for pulling off `impossible saves` and has preserved a clean sheet in four of his seven starts this campaign.
Given and Harper are highly revered by Robson, having stated that he considers the pair unsurpassable in the Premiership. Certainly both have demonstrated outstanding accuracy with their distribution of the ball - no other top-flight keeper can boast superior delivery precision than these two (61 and 59% respectively). This is compared to Weaver who has been wayward with 50% of his supply to the out-field players, but then again, with Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson to aim for, Weaver might well augment his accuracy.
If Sheffield-born Weaver is to oust either keeper at Newcastle then his youthful and fearless outlook may pay dividends. The City stopper has just turned 21 and has developed an adventurous style of keeping with the agile shot-stopper owning the third-highest Division One saves to shots ratio of 78%; seven percentage points better off than Given and a massive 12 over Harper.
There is no doubt that Weaver is an exceptional and exciting talent and would grace a higher level of football than he`s currently experiencing at City. However, Newcastle have been linked with several other keepers recently including Coventry`s Magnus Hedman and Spanish international Toni Prats. Robson will need to ask himself whether the money required to lure Weaver away from Maine Road might not be better spent on a goalie with top-flight experience or, indeed, any keeper at all.